I went back to Syabi, to take a look at the New Cosmos of Photography exhibition once again. Each of the 5 finalists got some wall space, and a place to show their portfolio, but all of the other 20 people who received honorable mention also had some space to show like one print, and a portfolio. It was interesting to see this work, which really ranged from the terrible to the potentially interesting to the really quite clever. My favorite out of the bunch was Wataru Yamamoto, a student at Tama Art University, who presented a work called “Draw a Line”:
The idea behind this work is really pretty simple. He went into the forest, set up his camera and stood some distance away from it with a long cable release, “drawing a line” through the frame. In these photos the line is basically straight, but in others it zigzags through the trees. Turning the pages of this portfolio was extremely enjoyable. On the one hand, you’re kind of playing a game of “Where’s Wataru?” on every page, because he’s often camouflaged quite well. But it’s also interesting to see how the line changes, and to realize that you’re not even bothering to look at the forest. I like this kind of goofy experimentalism, it reminds me of something John Divola might do.
Strangely enough, the winner of the honorable mention section also used the cable release in her photos, but in a much less experimental way. This is the work of Mariko Sakaguchi:
Every photo in this series shows her taking a bath in some scene where no one notices her. This leaves me very, very cold. Taking a bath in front of a busy train station, or in a local convenience store? That would be something, on the Laurel Nakadate tip. It seems like the work is trying very hard to say something, but not really connecting, and leaving the cable in the frame exemplifies this—visually, it doesn’t add anything to the photo, and conceptually it actually makes the photographs weaker. I mean, this tells us that she is controlling exactly when to take the photo, but it’s not like she’s interacting with anyone else; nothing is ever happening around her! Using a timer might have made things more interesting. There was also a photo in her portfolio where she was bathing in front of a house that had been wrecked by the tsunami. Without being sanctimonious, I would like to express some disappointment with that.
Selecting this work as the “best of the rest” may or may not reflect on the competition as a whole. I’m not sure.